Retail sales surged in March as millions of Americans received $1,400 checks through the American Rescue Plan.
A new report from the Commerce Department shows a surge in consumer activity, providing evidence that Democrats' coronavirus relief package, signed by President Joe Biden in early March, is helping the economy recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Data released Thursday by the department shows retail and food sales surging 9.8% in March. The $619.1 billion in retail and food sales was a 27.7% increase from March 2020, when the pandemic first began. A Federal Reserve bank report from earlier in April said that those receiving relief checks either spent or planned to spend around 26% of their checks.
Sporting goods, hobby, musical instrument, and book stores saw the biggest surge, up 23.5% since February. That was followed by clothing and clothing accessories stores, which saw an 18.3% increase. Food services and drinking places, which were hit hard with pandemic-fueled closures, jumped 13.4%, according to the data.
The jump in retail spending came the same month tens of millions of $1,400 economic impact payments were sent out to Americans. Those checks were part of the coronavirus relief package ushered through Congress by Democrats, and that not a single Republican lawmaker supported.
So far, 159 million stimulus checks have been sent out, CNBC reported on Wednesday.
The consumer spending surge is the latest sign the economy is recovering from the damage the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted.
The Department of Labor also announced on Thursday that weekly jobless claims fell to the lowest level since the pandemic began, with 576,000 filing for jobless benefits. That's a decrease of 193,000 from the previous week.
This all comes as the vaccination effort ramps up, with vaccine eligibility expanding to more and more people — something experts say will help return the country to a sense of normalcy.
To date, roughly 123.9 million people have gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — which amounts to 37% of the United States population, according to data from the New York Times. At the current pace of vaccination, 78% of the country — which is akin to every person 18 or older — would be vaccinated by June 21, per the New York Times' estimation.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.